~ excerpt ~
by Cindy Davis

Bang bang.

The damn dog was barking again.

Bang bang. She clamped the pillow tight to her ears. All at once her brain registered the fact that it was pounding and not barking. She sat up, wadding the pillow against her chest. The hammering grew clearer. It came from the back door. Angie flung off the covers and blinked the bedside clock into focus. 3:31. Now what? This was for sure the first, and last, time she'd visit this town.

The banging continued. She stood up, and tiptoed to the kitchen doorway. Through the square window on the back door, a smallish figure stood silhouetted on the deck. The screen door propped against his left hip, right arm raised, his fist thumped on the lightweight wooden door. Angie scuffed barefoot across the linoleum. It was then she realized the dog was barking, but not the inexorable woof woof of the previous nights. It was now a high-pitched, almost frantic yelping.

She twisted the lock and pulled open the door to the wide-eyed face of a boy of about twelve. His dark hair was disheveled, as though he hadn't combed it today. Given the hour, he probably hadn't. He burst into the kitchen. "Phone. I need to call...there's somebody...the dog..."

Angie put a hand on his shoulder. In a previous life she'd been an ER nurse. Touching the shocked, or bereaved, usually helped bring calmness. She guided him to a chair. He started to sit but before his rear end hit the seat he leaped up. "Phone. I need to call..."

A gentle push settled him in the chair. She knelt between a pair of new looking Nikes, one of them untied.

"Tell me what's wrong."

"Mister York. He's d-dead."